Selling speed is the biggest development the social and internet age brought to sales. We live in a self-serve age. Customers are doing their own research online, and accept social signals as part of their consideration. This happens in B2C (Business to Consumer) and B2B (Business to Business) channels alike. CEB told us that in B2B markets 57% of a consumer’s decision in the buying cycle is formulated before they ever speak to a sales representative. Fifty seven percent of the purchase decision is based on the online content they researched.
This up-front work has shifted from sales to marketing. Today’s digital marketing has to grab a prospect’s attention, raise their awareness
about your offering, then get them to the website to consider your option as a benefit they want or need. Very effective marketing will even convince the customer that this offering is their best option to solve their problem, and lock in a sale in the case of online purchases.
For many products and services, effective content marketing has sped up this cycle. Good content provides impactful information that gets to the core of what the customer wants to know about whether it is interesting, which option to choose, and whether to seriously engage with the intention of purchasing. With readily available content, customers are taking the self-guided buyers journey. However, the marketing stages and sales cycle has shifted from the hands of the salesperson to the control of the customer – but is has NOT gone away.
Customers are made aware of the offering either offline or through digital marketing assets. If it is interesting to them, they will leverage the available content marketing to check out whether it is worth considering the option for themselves or their company. If the answer it seems like a compelling offer then the client digs in a little further to understand the details, listens to social signals like other clients advocating the product, and perhaps reads through an expert’s product comparison blog post. This client makes a decision (preference forming phase), and then contacts the sales representative of their chosen brand.
Imagine if I introduced myself to you on LinkedIn representing Abacastous Inc and immediately asked you to buy my softdrink product. Most would cringe and drop the connection, but some would actually be interested enough to find out more… or even just buy it as a softdrink is inexpensive. But what if one bottle were $10,000? Then you would probably think more seriously about the buyer’s journey, and want to know what is different about this drink that warrants such a steep price. You would then be grateful for the online content making your decision phase short.
From an outsider’s perspective, decisions look like they are made in a flash. However, for significant purchases the customer still steps through the stages of a purchase decision. Decisions can be made in a flash – because smart firms put their content marketing at a prospect’s fingertips, and make important social signals findable (think Twitter feeds, branded Facebook pages, and blog posts answering common customer questions). With an informed customers, supported by social signals – faster choices can be made with confidence.
Content marketing at a customer’s fingertips has definitely made the purchase decision cycle faster. Information is available instantaneously, as are the social opinions on whether other buyers felt it was a worthwhile offer providing them with good value. But don’t be fooled. Speeds in today’s purchase process don’t mean that you can cut out important steps, content and information. Missing steps in the buying cycle (think ACPPA) may result in even faster customer decisions – to avoid your offering.
Seller be prepared!